Luis Suarez

This interview is part of the study of blogger networking practices: links to other interviews and some background, links to the results.

***

Luis works at IBM as social software evangelist. He is located in Spain, but travels frequently for his work.

He blogs since 2003, first two years internally at IBM (as a KM manager then) and in public since 2005. Between other things he is known for his experiment with eliminating work-related email.

He says his internal weblog has started to show “how blogging can make a difference” inside the company and it worked well in that respect. While blogging internally, he followed a few KM weblogs and engaged in what he calls “half-way conversation” – he linked to them and commented, but they couldn’t see it. He talks about the need to have proper conversations, to become one of KM bloggers, “to build up a community of people to share”, “to help me to position myself as a thought leader within the field”.

He adds how blog creates an online presence for him, it is way for “establishing yourself within a network of people who share the same interests” and “eventually meeting up in person”. He gives an example of people who approach him at events because they know him from blogging. While some people may “freak out” when others know so much about them, Luis finds it “fascinating”. He says “that person gets my attention full at that moment” because “they took the effort to read what I write”.

When he started blogging, his (internal) network of KM people was active, but relatively small. Blogging expanded it to other communities, other business units. We also discuss how blogging helps to breaks barriers – hierarchical, organisational, geographical, time zone. He says that activities that he was engaged into as a result of blogging tripled…He became more visible as a KM leader, getting more visible place within the company and better understanding of the rest of the company.

He had similar changes with his external weblogs, however “a bit slower” as it takes time to “build a reputation”. “The impact has been more significant”. He gives an example of one of KM bloggers saying “when I think about IBM, I think Luis”. “It allowed me to have a public face, a public voice”

“They allowed me to position myself in a KM blogosphere, to share what we were doing internally and how we were doing. A public voice of KM in IBM.” This turned into “a whole bunch of relationships”.

“I feel being part of the community of passionate people around KM.[…] I’m not longer alone. Many people in most companies were facing the same issues I was facing. Sharing those experiences was a tremendous experience – that’s why I’m still blogging”.

Roles weblog plays in networking

“Weblog is crucial to allow people to build up an opinion without knowing you”. Luis compares weblog to an “internet business card”, that not only tells “who you are and what you do”, but also allows to “get an introduction of your community” by seeing who comments. He emphasises how important is engaging with others who comment on a weblog – “last thing you can do is to ignore your comments. I hear from people ‘I’m a big fun out your blog because you reply back'”.

“Weblogs allow you to get beyond what people publish and to get as sense of what a person is like”. “to build a profile of a person as a person”, not a “business entity”. “Not how long you have been married, but how people write articles”. “When you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person”. He adds, “the line between life and work is going to disappear”.

Later weblogs “consolidate the initial contacts”. He says that it’s more in trackbacks and cross-linking between blogs than in comments. He talks about meeting Bill Ives for the first time, while knowing him via weblog for several years. “It was amazing”. “It was like two old pals talking about KM and picking it up where we have left it in the blogs”.

Linking conversations between blogs helps to “corroborate what someone else said” while also adding own experiences and sharing with others. “And then you are talking not about silos […], but interconnected complex network of blogs”, where bloggers know whom to go to for help or an advice. Luis talks about the sense of community that emerges thought those interactions

Forming of a community via weblogs is much slower than you could have e.g. with social networking site, as “you don’t constantly bombard them with the updates”. He says that building those connections takes time, but they are “the most ever lasting”, since “people understand the hard work that goes into weblog post”. He emphasizes that blogging is not an overnight success, it takes time and effort. For him his weblog is a central part of his online presence, “social networking sites come and go, your blog won’t”.

When we talked how blogging helps in getting things done work-wise, Luis says that blogging lays a foundation, building trust “which is crucial for collaboration”. He also gives an example of the role of his internal weblog in getting “last three jobs” once he announced in his weblog that he was ready for new challenges. He adds “Your never know when you are going to be unemployed. Start blogging now.”

What is difficult with weblogs is the embedding blogging into the workflow of day to day interactions. While email is part of work, blogging still feels as an extra work.

Blogging in comparison to other tools

Blogging is a “powerful way to build up your personal brand”; “you don’t get it from social networking site, there you are just one of many people”. Blogging allows “to tell the world who you are”, to share passion. In a weblog it is also possible to “expand without bugging people”, so the readers can decide what and how much they want to read. What Twitter does (and blog doesn’t) is providing a space to share “titbits what I’m doing”, “ambient intimacy”. “Weblog is for an elaborate thought. Twitter for building social capital”. He talks about enhancing his connection with KM bloggers by knowing about their day to day life from Twitter.

Talking about different tools he tells about the risks of “spreading yourself too thin”, since it take effort to maintain one’s presence, adding that if he would have to choose one tool, it would be his weblog – “most of my hard work went into there”. For him “blogging is more a long-term commitment towards yourself and your personal brand”. “Twitter is like you treat acquaintances, blog is how you treat good friends”.

For Luis blog “is an essential tool”, not only as a personal KM system, but as a way to manage connections.